Goodwill toward hungry families rescues Apache Junction Food Bank

Apache Junction’s Frontier Ace Hardware owner Brian Kabat offered a loaner truck to the Apache Junction Food Bank while its 16-foot, refrigerated truck was being repaired. After learning United Food Bank covered that, he instead donated money to the cause. Above are Frontier Ace Hardware employees April Eckert and Susan Ladue presenting Mr. Kabat’s check. (Submitted photo)

When Apache Junction Food Bank driver Dan Rice saw the driveshaft of the charity’s large, refrigerated truck fall out on University Drive in Mesa on the morning of Oct. 2, he knew he had to do a few things: immediately retrieve the driveshaft, have the truck towed to Apache Junction Tires and Service and rent a truck in order to transfer its contents to the food bank ASAP.

The big question was how was the 35-year-old nonprofit organization going to absorb the cost – an estimated $3,500 – for repairs and to rent a specially equipped loaner?

The nonprofit feeds 80-100 families per day and more than 14,000 qualified families a year. It did not have the means to cover about $3,500, according to a release.

The food bank issued an alert to regional media outlets explaining the challenge.

“What happened next was a remarkable outpouring of support from the media and the community. Thanks to news agencies like KTAR, ABC Channel 15, the Apache Junction and Gold Canyon News and the Apache Junction Independent, there was an explosion of donations and testimonials from local residents – many of whom have been helped by the food bank – as well as area businesses,” according to the release.

United Food Bank, which oversees food banks in the East Valley and has a close relationship with the Apache Junction Food Bank, was the first to step up. It offered a loaner truck of the same size and specs to use during the repair time needed, saving hundreds of dollars in costs, according to the release.

Inside the Apache Junction Food Bank, 575 N. Idaho Road No. 701, staff members and volunteers answered phone calls, emails, texts and social-media alerts for more than 10 hours the following day, food bank officials said in the release. The repair costs were covered within hours of the press release.

“We want to express our thanks to everyone for every donation,” Apache Junction Food Bank President Robert Mohle said in the release.

“The donations and other assistance were enough to cover the estimated $3,500 costs and about $10,000 more will be allocated to a truck-replacement campaign,” he said.

“We just developed a multi-pronged approach of grants, donations and a recently established GoFundMe account to raise a minimum of $60,000 toward replacing the vehicle. It brings approximately 900,000 pounds of food from area grocers to the Apache Junction Food Bank annually,” he said in the release.

Executive Director JoElle Hurns praised the media for stepping up. Ms. Hurns said the AJ News posted the information on the AJ Discussion and Chat Facebook group page and that changed everything. The site was filled with hundreds of touching testimonials from the Food Bank’s own clients, she said.

“They made $5, $10 and $20 donations and shared their stories about why and how they have turned to us for food and support themselves, for their families or their friends,” Ms. Hurns said in the release.

“I was just in tears. Real, uncensored and personal stories that created more goodwill and public relations buzz than we could have possibly dreamed. AJ Mayor Jeff Serdy donated and City Manager Bryant Powell shared our cause throughout the city. We are indebted to all of them,” Ms. Hurns said.

Businesses also took up the cause, making donations. They came from the Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team and the trust of former Arizona Gov. Rose Mofford, handled by Attorney Charles Stegall. The Senior Rodders of Arizona donated $2,000 while Superstition Mountain Rotary Club, Gold Canyon Realty, McDermid Insurance, Desert Kustoms Car Club, Vito Teti of Realty Executives, and Brian Kabat of Frontier Ace Hardware also contributed. Apache Junction Tires and Service, a longtime vendor to the Apache Junction Food Bank, also donated to the repair cost, according to the release.

Ms. Hurns reported there were dozens of first-time donors who hadn’t known much about the food bank before the situation occurred. She said many were unaware the nonprofit serves so many families who reside in such a large area of the East Valley.

The food bank depends on more than 100 volunteers who provide 14,000 hours annually to help feed 40,000 people, according to the release.

Food Bank Vice President Dr. Robin Reesal explained giving can improve one’s mindset and studies suggest that being generous to others can improve one’s health and longevity.

“At the end of the day, helping a single mother feed her family, preventing a child from going hungry or saving a senior from going to bed on an empty stomach is what we are all about,” Dr. Reesal said in the release.

“The gift of food is precious. We are truly indebted to those who help us help others. We thank them all,” she said.

Updates on the progress of the truck campaign and other food bank efforts will be available at ajfoodbank.org.

The Apache Junction Independent is mailed each month to 35,000 homes.

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